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Tue, Nov 16, 2004 - Page 12 News List

Sun changes tactics with free version of Solaris

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA

Sun Microsystems yesterday planned to unveil the latest version of its flagship Solaris operating system. It also intended to offer a free version of the program to make it more attractive to corporate and academic computer users.

The program will not be commercially available until the end of January, Sun executives said Friday, but versions of Solaris 10 have been available for trial use for almost a year.

The pricing shift is an effort to put pressure on software competitors like Microsoft and Red Hat, the biggest distributor of the free Linux operating system. The shift could also broaden the market for Solaris by making it easier to try out.

Sun currently has about a million Solaris users around the world, according to an estimate by the International Data Corp, a market research firm.

"They're looking for ubiquity," said Jean Bozman, a computer industry analyst at IDC.

Pricing and support options offered by software providers have become increasingly complex as open-source software has become a viable option for use in running big corporate data centers. Companies like Red Hat, for example, generally distribute a free version of Linux, while charging a purchase license and support fees for a version that is more commonly used commercially.

Sun is trying to make its pricing attractive and to take advantage of the fact that it offers hardware, service and software on a one-stop shopping basis, something that some of its competitors can't do.

The company, under the direction of its president, Jonathan Schwartz, is also pushing toward a range of new pricing schemes similar to those used in consumer industries like the cellphone and cable businesses.

"From a pricing perspective, Solaris will be less expensive in any category than our Linux competitors," said John Loiacono, Sun's executive vice president for software.

Service and support for Solaris 10 will cost between US$120 and US$360 a year for each licensed machine.

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